Auto-related deaths and injuries place a stain on society. In addition to causing grief and suffering, vehicle crashes add billions to the cost of health care and vehicle insurance. Buying a safer car can help consumers confidently identify the safest vehicles. Each year about 40, 000 Americans lose their lives in motor vehicle collisions. This means that one in 8. 5 drivers are involved in an automobile collision and one out of nine hospital beds are occupied by a victim of an auto-related incident.
Despite these statistics, the rate of traffic deaths per million miles driven is steadily declining. Safer cars get partial credit for the encouraging trend. Each new model must meet safety standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As the car-buying public becomes interested in safety, manufacturers are offering automotive safety features beyond NHTSA s minimum requirements. It however is not yet required by law, features such as dual air bags increase a vehicle s sale appeal. Safety is divided into three categories: the size and weight of a vehicle, passive safety features that help people stay alive and uninjured in a crash, and active safety features that help drivers avoid accidents.
Larger, heavier cars with poor ratings many easily produce better results than smaller cars with good ratings. In addition to a car that crashes well (passive safety), you should look for a car that can avoid a crash altogether (active safety). Keep in mind that all of this testing was done with test dummies wearing seat belts and shoulder harnesses. Without them, a 15 mile per hour crash could prove fatal. All cars must meet US Department Of Transportation standards for crash-worthiness. Larger and heavier cars, however, are usually safer in a collision than smaller ones.
In relation to their numbers on the road, small cars amount for more than twice as many deaths as large cars. If a heavier vehicle collides head-o with a lighter one, the lighter vehicle and its occupants will suffer substantially more damage. Passive safety features help drivers and passengers stay alive an uninjured in a crash. Size is a passive safety feature: bigger is safer. In relation to their numbers on the road, small cars account for more than twice as many deaths as large cars. In the past few years significant accident-avoidance and safety systems have been introduced on many automobiles.
ABS brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, night vision, and automatic cruise control are some of the electronic miracles that assist unavoidable no matter how skilled a driver may be. Recent deadly 100-car pileups in the United States, Sweden, Great Britain, Italy, and Germany demonstrate that crash survivability must not be taken for granted. Since 1979, NHTSA has been crash-testing through its New Car Assessment Program. Crash-test results determine how well vehicles protect belted drivers and front-seat passengers during a frontal collision. During the crash test, dummies are placed in driver and front passenger seats. Instruments measure the force of impact to each dummy s head, chest, and legs.
Test use all available restraints. Federal safety standards require all passenger cars meet injury criteria measured in a 30 mph frontal crash. NCAA tests are conducted at 35 mph to make the difference between vehicles more apparent. Test simulate damage equivalent to a head-on collision between two identical vehicles, each moving at 35 mph.
This is the same as vehicle moving at 70 mph striking an identical parked vehicle. Virtually all new cars have air bags, and they are saving lives. They are reducing driver deaths by about 14 percent, and passenger bags reduce deaths by about 11 percent. Air bags instantly inflate in frontal crashes at speeds as low as 15 mph. They are designed to prevent occupants from hitting the dashboard, steering wheel or windshield. Driver and front passenger air bags will be standard equipment in all model year 1998 cars and all model year 1999 light trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles.
Many vehicles are already equipped with this feature. Front air bags do not eliminate the need for safety belts and they offer no protection in rollovers, rear or side impacts. Safety belts help keep you in place should a collision occur. The problem of serious inflation injuries is not going to be with us forever.
Most 1998 models have redesigned air bags, and future air bag technologies will reduce the risk even among people who have moved forward before air bags inflate. Sensors will detect rear-facing restraints and automatically switch off passenger bags. Inflation rates will be tailored to crash severity. More advanced air bags could recognize people s positions just before inflating and reduce the force if someone is in position to be harmed.
Because front air bags do not eliminate the strong need for safety belts, it is important to know that safety belts are the best protection in a crash. They prevent you from colliding with the dash or windshield and hold you inside the vehicle. Safety belts are most effective if adjusted properly, whether manual or automatic. All safety belts should be pulled tightly across the pelvis. Some systems also offer adjustable anchors that change the height of the shoulder strap to improve belt fit. Seat belts and airbags work together in a collision.
The combination of seat belt and air bags in 75 percent effective in preventing serious head injuries and 66 percent effective in preventing serious chest injuries. Driver and passenger side air bags are now standard equipment on every new motor vehicle sold in the US. Most used cars made after 1996 have them as well. Side-impact air bags greatly increase protection. Most European automakers offer them on their more expensive models.
Despite some bad press, air bags save thousands of lives every year. Manufacturers have reintroduced the two-stage air bags (designed at GM in 1970) to avoid potential injuries to children and small adults from cheaper one-stage designs. It is still vital, however, that children ride in the back seat of any motor vehicle. Another factor that should be taken into account when dealing with safety, would be actual highway safety.
The death toll on our highways makes driving the number one cause of death and injury for young people 5 to 27. Highway crashes cause 94 percent of all transportation fatalities and 99 percent of all transportation injuries, yet traffic safety programs receive only one percent of the funding of the U. S. DOT budget. The staggering loss of life and the incidence of life-threatening injuries occurring each year is best described as a public health crisis. For every motor vehicle injury resulting in death in the US, 13 people sustain injuries severe enough to require hospitalization.
In the US DOT publication The Economic Cost Of Motor Vehicle Crashes, NHTSA investigator Lawrence J. Blincoe reports that in 1994, motor vehicle crashes accounted for 40, 676 fatalities, and 4, 100 injuries of which 533, 000 or 13% were serious. The total lifetime cost to the US economy for automobile accidents that occurred in 1994 was $150. 5 billion. The 1996 NHTSA report 1996 Traffic Safety Facts came up with similar though somewhat improved statistics: 41, 907 fatalities and 3, 511, 000 injuries, 456, 430 of them serious. The 1997 NHTSA report Traffic Safety Facts 1997 reports 41, 967 fatalities and 3, 399, 00 injuries, 441, 870 of them serious.
The 1998 NHTSA report Traffic Safety Facts 1998 Annual Report reports 41, 471 fatalities and 3, 192, 000 injuries, 414, 960 of them serious. In higher income countries, road traffic accidents are already among the top ten leading causes of disease burden in 1998 as measured a Days (disability-adjusted life years). In less developed countries, road traffic accidents were the most significant causes of injuries, ranking eleventh among the most important causes of lost years of healthy life. According to a World Health Organization/World Bank report The Global Burden of Disease, deaths from noncommunicable diseases are expected to climb from 28. 1 million a year in 1990 to 49. 7 million by 2020, an increase in absolute numbers of 77%.
Traffic accidents are the main cause of this rise. Road traffic injuries are expected to take third place in the rank order of disease burden by the year 2020. Drivers under 25 experience a much higher percentage of traffic fatalities when compared to other drives, so consider the safety of a large or mid-sized sedan for inexperienced drivers. Large cars offer increased levels of comfort and roominess when compared to their smaller siblings, and today s fuel injected engines allow mid-sized, 6-cylinder automobiles to enjoy remarkably good gas mileage. Safety features include driver and passenger air bags, anti-lock brakes, adjustable shoulder belt anchors for more comfortable safety-belt fit and, for passenger cars, improved side-impact protection. Crash-testing is expensive, so not all vehicles can be tested every year.
Cars, light trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans that are new, popular, redesigned or have improved safety equipment are selected for testing and bought from dealers. Although a great deal has been done to make the automobile safe, the most important feature involves making good personal decisions. You should always shop carefully for safety features in your next car. Know the handling and safety characteristics of the vehicle you are buying.
Do not drink and drive. Buckle up, and most importantly, obey all traffic laws.